Primal versus Paleo


Primal vs. Paleo

People often ask me, what’s the difference between Paleo and Primal. To be honest, there aren’t too many differences. Both have theory based on ancestral health and how our hunter gather ancestors lived. Both are based on eating plants and animals (from ethical, grass feed sources) and avoiding the processed foods and industrial oils that were not present in the days of early man’s evolution. Both camps agree that what we ate, how we moved and how we lived shaped our evolution to become the dominant species on the planet.

I have probably been guilty of answering the question, what’s primal eating or what’s primal living with it’s the same as paleo. At that point people are often extremely interested or especially in Perth or Australia are put off due to one of the celebrity chefs heavily promoting it on television and in the media. It is my mistake, or it has been in the past, to lump primal eating and lifestyles in with paleo.

The paleo diet and the Primal Blueprint both recommend limiting carb intake, especially grains. They both advocate the eating of more fat and protein with lots of vegetables. They are both based on evolutionary science.

They are similar but they are also different is several ways and here’s how:

Initially the difference was the way both camps viewed saturated fats. Early on the Paleo side believe that saturated fats are the “bogey that raises cholesterol”. Paleo supporters recommended lean meats and limiting butter and coconut oil. The Primal side did not. Primal advocate Mark Sisson was quick to realise that good healthy saturated fats are important for “energy, neurological function, hormone manufacture and cellular structure”. The paleo stance has changed since the earlier days and they have now softened their stance, so there is no real difference these days.

The most significant difference is how each side treats dairy. Paleo restricts dairy, often touting that it is toxic and not for human consumption as no other species drinks the milk of any other animals. Mark Sisson, the creator of the Primal Blueprint and states: “While we grant that dairy can be problematic for people, we maintain that full-fat dairy, preferably raw, fermented, and/or from pastured-raised animals, is a fantastic source of healthy fat, immune-boosting and muscle-building protein, and bioavailability calcium.”

A huge difference…Paleo is against coffee, Primal is not! Enough said!

Another difference is how each side approaches the nightshade family of vegetables. Nightshades are potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. Potatoes are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. I try not to eat them all the time but with there are no sweet potatoes available for my small amount of carbs at night, I’ll have a potato. “Paleo takes a more cautious stance on nightshades, fingering them as a potential initiator of leaky gut and low-grade inflammation. They’re especially hostile to the white potato.”- Mark Sisson-

The other differences are that:

“Primal folks are not primitive literalists. We are pragmatists. If it works, it works even if it’s modern.

For example, the Primal Blueprint recommends wise supplementation appropriate to counter the stressors and toxins unique to our life today. Grok dealt with acute stressors like an intense hunt, an encounter with a venomous snake or big cat, or a battle over resources (or mates). Grok didn’t deal with the kind of chronic stress that modern folks must contend with the long commutes, the bills piling up, the mortgage, the stress of a sensationalist 24-hour news cycle. Grok’s world was relatively pure, free of industrial contaminants, pollution, heavy metals, and xenoestrogens. Ours is rife with it. Supplementation can help mitigate some of these unavoidable, modern stressors.

Grok didn’t eat whey protein powder, but it sure is helpful and convenient if you want to increase muscle protein synthesis after a workout or boost glutathione status. Additionally, own experience with collagen supplementation has resulted in noticeable improvements in mobility and tendon strength, suggesting that, unless I start doing bone broth or copious amounts of offal almost daily, I’m probably better served taking a collagen supplement.

Primal folks recognize the danger of spending too much time in the digital realm to the exclusion of the physical one. But they’re going to use modern technology to enhance health, not hamper it. These technologies are all just tools, and you are a tool-making ape reading this on a device connected to a global network.

I designed The Primal Blueprint for the purpose of offering a guide for all elements of healthy living, and with the help and input of the Primal community over the last decade; it accomplishes that better than ever. Let’s face it; some days life makes it particularly difficult to have the perfect diet. Some people might not even want to worry about their food at all. We like to think of the Primal Blueprint design as a comprehensive cover, so to speak. The knowledge and efforts you exert in each area (diet, fitness, supplementation, stress management, sleep, etc.) can make a difference when the realities of day to day life keep you from doing a 100% in a given area.

Paleo is a good prescription for how to eat. It works. Don’t get me wrong.

It’s just not enough.

Primal is on one level a guideline for how to eat, live, and move in congruence with your physiology. On another level, it’s an operating system for asking questions about health, making good choices, and discovering best practices for enriching one’s existence.

I know which one I prefer.”

Mark Sisson-

There is a lot of information out there, regardless of what side of the fence you sit on following either protocol will help you be happier, healthier and feel great. The one thing that we all agree on is that eating good real food, all the time is the best way to go!



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